Luke 21:1-6 As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “I tell you the truth,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.”
The juxtaposition of these two events in Luke’s Gospel is very interesting.
Many years ago, a Roman Catholic friend who had lived in the Ivory Coast in West Africa, related to me how the Pope had declined an invitation to ‘bless’ a very ostentatious church that had just been built in the middle of a slum district. The reason he gave was that he was embarrassed that so much money had been spent on a building ‘for the glory of God’ in the midst of such abject poverty.
The rationale for the Temple in Jerusalem, as for all edifices built ‘for the glory of God’ down through the ages, is quite commendable. Solomon had even had God’s own ‘blueprint’ for, and his blessing upon, its magnificent predecessor, and its beauty was renowned throughout the known world!
But Jesus wanted to warn his disciples against the danger of letting things that are merely intended to point people to GOD become the centre of attention for their own sake. Throughout the OT the strong and consistent prophetic message to God’s people was for them to be more concerned about love/mercy and justice, and less about outward appearances and ritual (cf Micah 6:6-8: “With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”)
It is sad that it so easy for fallen Man to get things out of context, to let a ‘symbol’ become an ‘idol’ and overshadow the silent cry for justice. “Pride of man and earthly glory, sword and crown betray his trust – all that human toil can fashion, tower and temple, fall to dust. But GOD’s POWER, hour by hour, is my ‘temple’ and my ‘tower’. (Joachim Neander). As Jesus said to the rich, young ruler: “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Luke 18:22).